Former Vice President Joe Biden has told a number of close supporters that he's definitely running for president in 2020, but that he's concerned he can't make the kind of immediate impact on the race that either Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke has.
The Wall Street Journal reports Wednesday that Biden has confided his plans in "at least half a dozen supporters," and reports have aleady surfaced of Biden picking up staff in early primary states like South Carolina and New Hampshire. But Biden would need to raise several million dollars in his first 24 hours on the trail to look competitive and that has him very worried.
"Mr. Biden has expressed concern to these people that he wouldn’t be able to raise millions of dollars in online donations immediately the way some other Democratic candidates have, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont," a source told the WSJ.
Sanders raised $5.9 million in his first 24 hours, and O'Rourke, after keeping quiet about his early fundraising numbers, revealed Monday that he'd beaten that, taking in more than $6 million in online donations his first day — and both came in well ahead of the closest next competitor, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who raised just over a million in her first official day of campaigning.
"Mr. Biden wants to announce a large fundraising number after his candidacy is official to better compete in what is often dubbed the 'money primary' that kicks off a presidential season," the WSJ added.
His concerns are valid. While Biden is a strong candidate based on polling numbers in early primary states (he leads every one, even though he hasn't made any official announcements and reportedly doesn't plan to until early April), he's not the type of grassroots phenomenon that either Sanders or O'Rourke is. Sanders has a long history of raising millions in ten dollar increments, and O'Rourke is the sort of "viral" candidate that comes around only once per cycle.
Of the two, only Sanders can match Biden's poll numbers, but Biden is correct in believing he'll probably never ignite the sort of online enthusiasm Bernie does among young voters.
But while Biden may be right to worry about his first 24 hour haul, he does have a significant advantage over flash-in-the-pan-type candidates: he has a wide range of appeal, an extensive background, a reputation as a more "centrist" Democrat (even if his record doesn't necessarily reflect that image), and the most name recognition of anyone in the Democratic field.
The bigger concern for Biden might be his lack of "wokeness." He's a candidate — and a legislator — from an earlier time, when Republicans and Democrats were closer on issues like welfare reform, criminal justice reform, and even abortion (at one point, Biden even considered himself a mildly pro-life Democrat, and argued in a debate with then-vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan that he was "personally" opposed to abortion). His record will wither when compared to the more extreme platforms of some of his competitors.
And he's also an older white man. Not ideal for identity politics.
Regardless, Biden is expected to officially announce a campaign soon, likely in the first week of April.